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And Other Stories has announced its first Arabic reading group, up and running in three cities around the world. Readers in New York City, Cairo and London will be gathering to discuss three Syrian novels this autumn. All are welcome to join the groups in person or online.
The Arabic group is the second in a series of special reading groups in collaboration with the European Society of Authors and funded by the Michalski Foundation. Books have been selected from the European Society of Authors’ Finnegan’s List, a list of under-translated, under-recognized works recommended by prominent writers from around the world. Lebanese author Hoda Barakat and Syrian author Samar Yazbek have both suggested Arabic titles for the list in the past two years, and we’ll be reading three Syrian novels suggested by Yazbek: The Epidemic by Hani al-Rahib, The Shell by Mustafa Khalifa, and Ascension to Death by Mamdouh Azzam.
The reading group welcomes people who read in Arabic and people who don't – thanks to the work of translators Bassam Frangieh, Max Weiss, Ruth Ahmedzai, and Elisabeth Jaquette, excerpts of the novels in English translation are available on And Other Stories’ website for readers to download.
How to Join
Read the excerpts and/or the books, then add your thoughts in the comments section on the reading group page at And Other Stories – we’re hoping to get a lively discussion going with thoughts from readers all around the world. If you are looking forward to scintillating discussion with other bibliophiles, come to one of the meet-ups below:
First book to be read is The Epidemic by Hani al-Rahib, with an excerpt translated into English by Bassam Frangieh. This translation, as well as Frangieh’s profile of al-Rahib,was first published in Banipal 9. More information about al-Rahib, tips on where to find the book can all be found on AOS’ author page for al-Rahib, and the excerpt and profile can be downloaded from Banipal 9. In addition, the excerpt can also be directly downloaded here, and the tribute profile here.
The reading group wil meet in New York on Wednesday October 2nd, at 8pm at the Richard Ettinghausen Library at NYU's Hagop Kevorkian Center – 50 Washington Square South (enter at 255 Sullivan Street).
The Cairo group will meety on September 29th at 7:30pm at Dar al Tanweer publishing house – 8 Qasr el Nil Street, Downtown Cairo.
In London, the newly-named 'Saf7a we noss' group will meet on October 7th at 7pm at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre.
One way And Other Stories selects novels to publish is through these reading groups, which gather readers’ opinions on as-of-yet untranslated novels and help us pick what to publish. As Editor-at-large Sophie Lewis said in an interview on M. Lynx Qualey’s blog ArabLit (in English), “There just aren’t enough of us with enough time or languages under our belts. So our reading groups are open proving grounds for books we think we might be interested in.”
It is hoped that the Arabic reading group will like at least one of the books enough to recommend it as one that And Other Stories should consider publishing. Even if it is not picked up, the excerpts are available online for other publishers to read and consider. And Other Stories hopes you’ll join them this autumn.
Elisabeth Jaquette is the And Other Stories' Arabic reading group chair. She is a writer, translator, and graduate student in Anthropology at Columbia University. You can see her writing here and follow her on Twitter at @lissiejaquette.